June 12, 2024

Where Evergrey manage to match excellent riffs with memorable melodies the results are outstanding.

There are those bands that you love and buy everything they put out, and there are those that you like but are only keen on one album or a handful of songs. And then there are those bands that you are aware of, but they fail to excite you and there is no way they will get you to part with your hard-earned money to buy their music or merch. I confess that I personally pigeon-hole Evergrey into this latter category. However, Theories Of Emptiness grabbed my attention, initially thanks to the two upbeat and pretty commercial singles, and subsequently thanks to the greater variety of moods across the album which steps away from the persistently dark and maudlin atmosphere of previous releases.  

The album opener, Falling From The Sun, kicks off with high-energy metal riffing, a very brief verse, and then waves of synths to accompany the simple but effective chorus hook line. That chorus is definitely an earworm that, once in your brain, will repeat and all day long. It’s a perfect album opener. The momentum is halted straight away though by Misfortune, a heavy mid-paced track that plods along in a rather dull and uninspired way. The best thing I can say about it is that it is short. It’s soon forgotten about though as the intriguing To Become Someone Else starts with bluesy vocals from Englund before exploding into a more aggressive style. There’s a quiet central passage leading to more heavy riffing and a repeat of the chorus. It’s not an easy song to get your head around but it grows on repeated listening. In contrast, the following Say is another instant earworm. It follows a similar template to Falling From The Sun, this time with the striking use of pop style keys in the chorus. 

Ghost Of My Hero changes the mood again. There’s a gorgeous melody, highlighted initially by the very sparse piano and percussion backing to the vocal line, and continuing as a power ballad with increasingly lush orchestral strings. Despite being almost painfully slow, it remains gripping as it gradually builds up steam to something of a climax. It’s one of the standout tracks on the album. There’s another dip in quality with We Are The North, a fairly routine prog metal affair, before another standout track One Heart. You could describe it as a pretty straight-forward rock anthem, but it’s brilliantly catchy and would put bands who write this sort of material for a living (I’m thinking of fellow Swedes like H.E.A.T or Eclipse) to shame. You sense it’s written with the stage performance in mind and with that call/response chorus you know it’s going to be a live favourite with the fans. The upbeat nature of the song is enhanced by the positivity of the lyrics. For a band renowned for wallowing in introspection, this is very welcome.

The next song, The Night Within, is another short and fairly anonymous piece, but that’s followed by the longest piece at almost seven minutes, Cold Dreams, which is probably the most prog-oriented track here, with Englund indulging in some very Floydian guitar work.  Jonas Renkse guests on vocals (along with Englund’s wife, Salina). It’s impressive and tries hard to be a classic but perhaps falls slightly short of that target. The last proper song is the solid Our Way Through Silence which is almost in AOR territory, and this leads into A Theory Of Emptiness which simply consists of haunting female voices and keys. Not the best way to close the album, I thought.

Theories Of Emptiness is a patchy album. Where Evergrey manage to match excellent riffs with memorable melodies the results are outstanding. Falling For The Sun, Say, and One Heart are all bona fide classics.  Likewise, the atmospheric slow-burners Ghost Of My Hero and Cold Dreams work wonderfully well. Some of the rest pales in comparison, but hey, there’s enough great material here to change my opinion of the band and get me heading down to my local record store to buy the album. If you’re not an Evergrey fan already then take a listen and it might change your opinion of the band too.